SALT LAKE CITY - Trying to mount a fourth-quarter rally to tie the score on the last play of the game, the BYU football team had a 36-yard field goal attempt hit the upright, missing and sealing the 24-21 heartbreaking loss to the University of Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night but not before another wild finish in the 88th meeting of the two teams.
BYU (2-1) actually got what seemed to be three last plays of the game. With eight seconds left, Riley Nelson's pass fell incomplete and the game clock showed time expired on the play. After Utah's (2-1) fans rushed the field, thinking the game was over an official review took place and one second was placed on the clock.
The Cougars then attempted a 51-yard field goal from Justin Sorensen which was blocked but recovered by JD Falslev. The Ute fans again rushed the field but a second too soon as the play was still live and Utah was assessed a 15-yard penalty which gave BYU one more chance.
Kicker Riley Stephenson attempted the 36-yard field goal which had the distance but hit the upright and bounced away to ensure the win for the Utes in what was a defensive battle for most of the game.
"Our team didn't play clean enough football today to win the game. I really liked their heart, how they fought back, how they played until the last second and gave us a great chance right until the very last play," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "But we made too many mistakes from the beginning of the game through the end to have a clean enough victory, and Utah capitalized on them to their credit."
The Cougars suffered from 12 penalties for 75 yards and had two costly turnovers in the game.
BYU outgained Utah with 312 total yards of offense while its defense held Utah to 245 yards. The game marked the ninth consecutive contest where BYU has held its opponent to under 300 yards of total offense. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy heavily contributed to the dominant defense, tallying eight tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass breakup and forced a fumble. Linebacker Brandon Ogletree led the defense with a career-high 12 total tackles.
Nelson finished the game completing 17 of 35 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Cody Hoffman led all receivers with 120 yards on eight receptions and one touchdown. Hoffman extended his streak to 22 consecutive games catching a pass. It was his eighth career 100-yard receiving game and second straight.
A strong defensive performance by both teams resulted in a 7-7 tie off of short fields entering halftime. Turnovers hurt the Cougars with a Nelson interception turning into three points for Utah and a bad snap that was recovered by the Utes and returned 47-yards by Utah's Mo Lee to extend Utah's lead to 17-7 in the second half.
Utah was quick to score again with quarterback Jon Hays finding Dres Anderson through the air from 39 yards out on a one-play drive. The Utes would go up 24-7 with under a minute to play in the third quarter.
The Cougars weren't ready to fold just yet in the fourth quarter, marching down field 75 yards for a touchdown, the longest drive of the game. Freshman Jamaal Williams ran into the endzone off a pitch from fellow freshman Taysom Hill to close the gap to 24-14 with 13:43 remaining in the game.
Van Noy came up with another big play with 5:05 remaining in the game, tackling Utah's punter, giving the BYU offense the ball on Utah’s 14-yard line. Nelson went to work, finding a wide-open tight end Kaneakua Friel for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-21, with 3:39 left.
On a Utah 3rd-and-3 Van Noy came through again with another tackle for loss, giving the BYU offense one more chance.
Facing 4th-and-12 from the Cougars' own 8-yard line, Nelson heaved a 47-yard pass to Cody Hoffman to reach Utah’s 34-yard line. The three bizarre game-ending plays followed and the Cougars fell to Utah 24-21.
The Cougars continue their stint on the road, facing Boise State Thursday Sept. 20 with kickoff set for 7 p.m. MT on ESPN.